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Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

The term “pink eye” refers to the appearance of a pink hue over the white area of the eyes due to inflammation.  When this type of inflammation occurs, conjunctival blood vessels dilate, resulting in the usual red and bloodshot eyes that pink eye is notoriously known for.

Pink eye can be contracted by pretty much anyone but certain groups of people may have more exposure to the condition. People that work in close proximity to others such as at schools and daycares, or those that work in hospitals where contagions are present are at higher risk of getting pink eye.

Types Of Pink Eye

There are 3 primary types of pink eye, based on cause:

  • Viral Conjunctivitis is the type  of pink eye usually associated with red, itchy, watery eyes along with a sensitivity to light. This form of conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can be spread through airborne means such as  coughing or sneezing.
  • Bacterial Conjunctivitis is spread through direct contact (usually with infected hands or items that have touched the eyes) and can cause serious damage to the eye if untreated. Symptoms of this type of pink eye involve a sticky yellow or green discharge in the corner of the eye. In some cases, this can  cause the eyelids to stick together.
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis is caused by eye irritants such as pollen, dust, and animal dander. Allergic conjunctivitis may be  seasonal (pollen) or situational after exposure to the irritant (animal dander) and is not contagious.  

Symptoms Of Pink Eye

In addition to the specific signs and symptoms related to the major types of pink eye listed above, general symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Pink or red color in the white of the eye
  • Swelling of the conjunctiva (the thin layer that lines the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid) and/or eyelids
  • Increased tear production
  • Feeling like a foreign body is in the eye
  • Itching, irritation, and/or burning
  • Discharge (pus or mucus)
  • Crusting of eyelids or lashes, especially in the morning
  • Contact lenses that do not stay in place on the eye and/or feel uncomfortable

Treatments For Pink Eye

Appropriate treatment is dependent on the type of conjunctivitis you have. Thankfully treatments are relatively painless and can clear it up within days. The following are common treatment for the primary types of pink eye:

  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is typically treated with prescription antibiotic eye drops.
  • Viral conjunctivitis have different treatments ranging from artificial tears to prescription drops to in-office one time anti-viral therapy.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis treatment includes artificial tears or allergy eye drops that have been cooled in a refrigerator, and cool compresses.

Prevention of Pink Eye

The best treatment however, is prevention. The use of good hygiene will greatly reduce your chances of contracting pink eye. The following are beneficial hygiene examples:

  • Cleaning contact lenses properly
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your eyes and eyelids with your hands
  • Replacing eye cosmetics regularly with new items and not sharing eye cosmetics
  • Changing your pillow cases
  • Avoid handling heavily used public (workplace and schools)  items and then touching your face without using hand sanitizer, or washing your hands

Have your eyes examined regularly

Some pink eye symptoms are the same with other eye problems such as  dry eye. With any eye condition, it is important to visit your eye doctor so he or she can diagnose and provide the appropriate treatment.